Years ago I ran into a huge issue getting my dad to convert from windows millennium edition to XP. I was quoted on a number of blogs and AIM profiles, which is how you can tell how long ago it was, as saying ME == GAY. For non programmers, and folks who aren’t hip on internet and then popular language, ME is Millennium Edition, == is programmer jargon for equals or is, and GAY is a term for homosexuals used to describe wrong things. Although a lot of the people who saw my quote spread it around the net trying to say something about my preferences, I received a number of emails and read many a post on forums world wide to the same tune. My dad however saw things differently.
There have been torrents of documentation and issues raised in the last year regarding Vista’s imminent release. Among the issues that I have come across, some stand out as being more irritating than others: DRM, which have been featured in a few podcasts and blogs; and its overall security countermeasure expansion. For the most part, vista is taking the stance that everyone that uses it is a pirate, or taking part in the notorious schemes of piracy. Much of the changes involve locking down and removing the backwards compatibility of the product. One of my favorite spokespeople from the Microsoft camp is Joel Spolsky. In his book, Joel goes into how Microsoft put extensive effort into ensuring compatibility between versions, which seems to have been completely abandoned from what the publicized content is stating. The clear example he gave was SimCity which wasn’t a hell of a game, but it was popular enough to cause Microsoft to put time into adding a test into the OS to allow SimCity to operate properly when the OS changed.
My dad was a big fan of Homeworld, which was by far his favorite game. The reason I bring this up is that my dad lost his game. I had converted to windows 2000, in 2000… For one reason or another we couldn’t get Homeworld to work… I was asked time and again to put the time into figuring this out so that he would be able to once again play his game, and unfortunately I didn’t know enough about the way that 2000 worked to be able to describe the problem and get it fixed. Regardless of this, 2000 was by far the nicest OS up grade to windows so far in my life time. You may be wondering why I would announce such blasphemy. Microsoft is a corporate monster that open source guy’s like myself don’t want anything to do with. We hate it with good reason. 2000 was all of the things that you needed from an OS (stable, simple, open for development) and most of all – it was user friendly, so my dad could use it.
Back in the days of late high school, I was involved pretty extensively in the piracy and other computer dark arts, thank you dark tipper and books like the anarchist cookbook for fueling my fire. This is important for many reasons, but mainly because I was shown socialism as it should have always been, not as it is portrayed. Open society embraced me because I had a soft mind and the drive to participate in the early Napster craze. Not that every thing that I did was legal, but it sure as fuck taught me a lot. Tangent aside, it is important to keep in mind that there are good aspects to piracy. One such gift to mankind was Napster, but another would definitely be the shareware software option… try it before you buy it.
I was given a laptop, with XP on it; I would use this laptop for school for the next 4 years, and still have today. The laptop had XP home installed on it, which to put it bluntly sucks. It has everything that I liked from 2000 hidden away and an ugly skin by default. It took me all of three hours to download the fix for XP home and put professional on to allow me proper control over my computer. The laptop was able to handle the new OS rather well, but for some reason it seemed different. Games that I used to be able to play are no longer viable to even install; applications I had written in 2000 and 98 are unable to run. In essence I was able to try out the software and not worry about activation and or purchasing it and quickly return to the previous version.
Since those days I have been less and less inclined to move to XP, avoiding much of the chaos of its drivers and virus issues. I have since noticed that they are discontinuing support for ME and I’m sure very soon there after will be windows 2000. The obvious route is to upgrade, and while XP is still far from 100% secure, it doesn’t cost $500 or treat me like the criminal Vista knows I am, before I get to it. The sad part of these issues that Vista is bringing about is that the folks it is irritating are going to be the folks who are actually buying the application, full price and running it as user, thinking they are doing the right thing. True pirates are simply going to hit the web at the first sign of difficulty and track their solution down.
An analogous situation is our primate ancestors trying to get food properly. Originally they were forced to just deal with whatever Mother Nature handed to them, but after a while they got irritated. What’s the deal with these rib cages? Why do you give us these guys that are so sickly or weak when the other guys seem to have so much muscle? Why does my finger have to be in my mouth when I bite down on that first piece? Can we put some tartar sauce on this? Anyone need some salt? Just a couple of the questions I’m sure that our ancestors had before they said fuck it and started bashing more and more animals with stones and other more elaborate tools. Our computer usage as users has been evolving and we are expected to know more and more about how to make things happen in our computers because as the things we are asking them to do gets more complex they are still reliant on our input and programmers abilities to decode our interactions into their native code of zeros and ones to be able to get things done.
Today is a great day to buy XP because it is no longer cutting edge. Hackers are going to be moving their eyes to Vista and OSX because that is where the cows are going to be moving. If you haven’t got a legit copy of XP it is still cheap enough that It’s not going to kill your bank, while it will at least dent it. It’s a sad day when an operating system dies out, mainly because It’s usually followed by a lot of calls from help from users who refuse to convert. Where is my dad in all of this? Staring at his email account and waiting for the advertisements to change.